The Pfeiffer Falls Trail in Big Sur, California, will reopen this year, more than a decade after it was destroyed by fire.
In 2008, a lightning strike ignited the Basin Complex Fire near Big Sur. The second-largest fire of that year, it burned 163,000 acres in six days, and cost $120 million just to put out. Only one building was lost, but the fire burned over the entire area of Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park. In doing so, it destroyed the access to the popular Pfeiffer Falls Trail.
The trail leads down a gorge through a cathedral of giant redwoods, ending at a 60-foot waterfall. Before the blaze, it was a link of the most popular hiking route through Big Sur. The fire destroyed bridges, retaining walls, and the wooden steps down the trail, and covered the area with debris. Aerial water-bombing washed the trail out entirely in places, and changed the topography with landslides in others. Rebuilding efforts have been further delayed by fires since then, and also repeated closures of Highway 1 due to landslides.
“This challenging project, 12 years in the making, is a testament to the great and enduring partnership between Save the Redwoods League and California State Parks,” said Jess Inwood, senior parks program manager for Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco-based conservation group.
Save the Redwoods League worked together with the California State Parks Department to rebuild the Pfeiffer Falls Trail. Together, they build a new 70-foot-long bridge across the Pfeiffer Redwood Creek Ravine, offering dramatic new views of the waterfall, which was also altered by the fire. They also replaced thousands of square feet of asphalt-paved accessible trail, and seven stream crossings to protect sensitive and recovering shallows.
The restored trail is due to open to the public this week, 13 years after the Basin Complex Fire, according to State Parks officials.